All the strangers came today, and it looks as though they’re here to stay.
If super-advanced space aliens came to Earth and eliminated war, poverty and disease, would that be good or bad? How would humanity react? Would we accept or reject their help? What would we do without existential challenges?
That’s the main theme that the SyFy miniseries Childhood’s End ploddingly explores over the course of six hours. When alien spaceships appear in the skies, people’s dead relatives begin appearing to them, all bearing the same message: there’s no need to be afraid, the aliens are here to help. And despite the fears of many, they do help, alleviating hunger, stopping violence, and curing illnesses.
But why are they helping us? What do they want from us? Some, distrustful, form a resistance league against the “overlords.” Others reject the help of the “guardian angels,” preferring to carry on with the usual human afflictions. But mostly, people are happy and healthy and have a lot of kids. As it turns out, in the absence of stuff trying to kill us, we lose our culture and become uncreative lumps.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for six hours of compelling plot. Not a ton happens, and basically there’s a lot of existential angst. What there isn’t is much science. Yes, there are aliens, but after the initial intervention they don’t interact with us much. Their technology is so advanced that we have no hope of grasping it, and the overlords discourage scientific inquiry. Unlike the recent sci fi films Interstellar and The Martian, where science was really quite important, science doesn’t really play a part in the story. And without anything else really driving the plot either, it’s mostly people examining their navels. It’s an interesting premise, but this did not need to be six hours. After awhile you just want to shake the people, and start thinking it might be just as well if the human race becomes obsolete.
It’s true that it’s good to see SyFy continue the trend of producing actual science fiction stories, when they could just continue churning out Sharknados. And Childhood’s End isn’t terrible. The special effects are fine. The acting is fine. (Charles Dance is great as the main alien, Karellan.) But overall, there’s just not much there to emotionally engage or intellectually stimulate.
Worth seeing? Not really, no, not for six hours. Might as well make way for Homo Superior. At least they might be interesting.